Puerto Rico Repeats as Series del Caribe Champs

Puerto Rico rallied for eight runs in their last two innings to blow past the Dominican Republic 9-4 to win the Series del Caribe championship for the second straight season. Jonathan Morales hit a big three run homer in the seventh to put Puerto Rico on top to stay 6-4.

Raul Valdes was pitching well for the first six innings, giving up only one run on a solo shot from Rusney Castillo in the third inning. His two walks in the seventh inning were his first of the game and led to his removal. The bullpen could not protect the lead for him, a problem the Dominicans have had in this series and series in the past.

The Dominicans got off to a quick start in the first inning, taking advantage of two walks in the first inning. Juan Perez made it hurt, driving in both runners with a double to right field. In the third another walk, the second to Gustavo Nunez led to a run when Junior Lake drove in Nunez with a double to give the Dominicans a 3-0 lead. A fourth walk and two fielding errors led to the fourth run for the Dominicans in the fifth inning.

With Raul Valdes cruising going into the seventh the atmosphere did not look rosy for Puerto Rico. Walks to Anthony Garcia and David Vidal put two runners on, stringing a jolt of electricity to the Puerto Rican fans in the stadium. Ramon Ramirez came on to replace Valdes. A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third where Ruben Gotay drove them both in with a single. Dayron Varona singled to end the day for Ramirez without retiring a batter, Wirfin Obisbo coming on to face Morales. He served a pitch that Morales drove over the left center field fence for a 6-4 lead, the first lead in the game for the Puerto Ricans.

The Dominicans tried to rally in the top of the eighth with singles from their first two hitters Edwin Espinal and Juan Perez off reliever Robby Rowland. Robby settled down and retired the next three hitters to strand the two runners on first and second.

Puerto Rico matched the Dominicans with two singles to lead off the bottom frame of the inning from Jesmuel Valentin and Anthony Garcia. The Dominicans went with juan Grulon to get out of the mess. Johnny Monell blasted a pitch into left field for a two run double resulting in another failure for the Dominican relievers. Monell scored on a Ruben Gotay single and that was the end of the day for Grulon.

It was the second consecutive Series del Caribe championship for the Caguas Criollos. Countries may have repeated Series del Caribe championships but the last team to win back to back championships was the Aguilas Cibaenas in 1997 and 1998 for the Dominicans. Mexico repeated in 2013 and 2014 but it was by two teams Obregon and Hermosillo.

Next year the series is scheduled to be held in Venezuela, but that is tentative. This year it was supposed to be held in Venezuela but for safety concerns and hyper inflation it was moved to Mexico. During the championship game it was reported Pirates catcher Elias Diaz’s mother was kidnapped in Venezuela. That is not a good start for Venezuela to hold the games.

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